100 More Films Made By Women – Part Three

In the midst of some momentous historical changes here in the UK, and across the vast European continent (and the world) I am in such a hurry to re-focus our attention to film. The following movies may not all be a bed of roses, what with fighting for rights, or gang territory, or struggling with inner family conflict, or of the sexual or violent variety. But these are movies big and bold, or small and quirky, from all over the planet, all important depictions of a reality we may or may not associate with. All directed by women. Here are ten more essential motion picture experiences to aid your escapism from the current real world developments.

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Suffragette (Sarah Gavron)

There are already too few films about such important subjects in our history, attempting to shine a dimming light on the suffragette riots, women trying to secure their own voices to vote. And here we are a mere 100 years on and we are still trying to illuminate the equal rights by whatever means necessary in various arenas – like motion pictures with women directing them for example. Written by Abi Morgan and directed by Sarah Gavron then, Suffragette is one of the grittiest, most powerful films of the last year or so. An unflinching view of the struggles women had to mark their rightful place in the world. A bold cast including Helena Bonham Carter, Brendan Gleeson, Anne-Marie Duff, Meryl Streep, devour the historical content, doing justice to its meaning and intent. As Maud Watts, the superb Carey Mulligan gives blood, sweat, and tears, lighting up every single frame given its abundance of dark, dark moments. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

City of God (Kátia Lund)

The Brazilian masterpiece, City of God, is, like Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers and Fukunaga’s Beasts of No Nation, one of the best films of its decade despite the fact that it is a feature that relies primarily on non-actors in primary roles. Its fractured realism structure, kinetic cinematography, editing and score make it an experience that totally immerses the viewer into the criminal atmosphere of Rio favela life. A major component to its artistic achievement was co-director, Kátia Lund, who supervised the crew, worked the rewrites, rode shotgun over the huge amateur cast and participated in the editing. She was hired as co-director by Fernando Meirelles based on her documentary experience in the favelas and a short film the two of them co-directed which was sort of a test-run before tackling the adaptation of the original novel. Yet, in true Hollywood style, she did not share the Best Director Oscar nomination with Meirelles and her name does not appear in the title sequence of the initial version released (by the Weinstein’s Miramax) to the world in 2003, a year after the film took Brazil by storm. Was this omission due to the Big Boys Club, the DGA, who have final say over who should be nominated for an Oscar? Maybe it was just sloppiness based on the Miramax title sequence? Whatever the reason, imagine the outcry if Jerome Robbins failed to receive a nod for West Side Story, Buck Henry ignored for Heaven Can Wait, or, God forbid, either of the Coens dropped from the credits (and nominations) for True Grit or No Country For Old Men. The error has since been corrected and Lund shares the Best Director awards from both the AFI and Washington Film Critics, among others, and is now officially acknowledged as co-director of the work in all circles. Meirelles went on to mainstream success with The Constant Gardener, but as for Lund, she eschewed Hollywood and has remained based in Brazil. Although thrilled by the film’s four Oscar nominations she did not attend the Oscar ceremony that year, despite receiving an invitation. – – – Steve Schweighofer @banjoonthecrag

Me and You and Everyone We Know (Miranda July)

Miranda July writes and directs a rather unique, yet engaging ensemble affair, the film ambles along at what feels like a random pace, delving deep into the insecurities and urges of its main characters. July (too playing a central part herself) loosely joins the bunch of misfits together through the story, colorful and often flippant, touching on the world of attraction and discovery from the points of view of both children and adults. The cross-over at times is offbeat and eye-widening, but intriguing and believable all the same. July offers casual, magnetic story threads, there is no real redeeming climax or plot twists, and these are by no means flaws of the film. Uncompromising, and awkwardly refreshing, see it with an open-mind, but make sure you do see it. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

27 Dresses (Anne Fletcher)

I’ll go ahead and pre-empt my endorsement of a film like 27 Dresses by declaring the endless wave of formulaic romantic comedies don’t tend to rock my boat. Anne Fletcher, who appears to be a proficient rom-com pro, gives 27 Dresses a depth of emotion, non-more-so than the breakable bond between two sisters that goes much further back than any mere crush. Above all its merits, this is Katherine Heigl’s movie though, spent many years finding her feet in the movie industry (after a career-high in Grey’s Anatomy), she is well suited here, beautiful, charming, this is an endearing, assured performance, Heigl is an under-rated and under-used actress, proving here she has the talent to balance comic and dramatic acting. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Appropriate Behavior (Desiree Akhavan)

Written, directed, and starring Desiree Akhavan, Appropriate Behavior is a hysterical comedy that examines the difficulties of trying to be more than one person all at the same time and failing for the most part across the board. Akhavan plays Shirin, a young woman in Brooklyn who tries to be both true to her bi-sexuality and her Persian mother, and she can’t seem to keep up both appearances. This leads to a series of comical yet unfortunate circumstances for Shirin, as she struggles to maintain a steady relationship with her girlfriend while keeping the relationship a secret from her conservative family who would never allow such a relationship. Real, sad and funny at the same time can be a hard act to keep going, but Akhavan does a fantastic job keeping all those plates spinning simultaneously. – – – Tim J. Krieg @FiveStarFlicks

Green Street Hooligans (Lexi Alexander)

Lexi Alexander has made a composed, gripping, and somehow honest, story on film of the seemingly relevant football hooligan culture in the UK (a discourse of tine very different from other such films like Football Factory). Green Street spills over from the gang rivalry and violence into the lives of everyday folk, the potentially tragic ramifications on families unwillingly involved. American Elijah Wood plays a character with a certain moral compass in the story, but he too is dragged into the passionate, dangerous spectator-ship. It’s a film that hits hard without going over the top, and leaves a lasting impression on its audience. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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The Ballad of Jack and Rose (Rebecca Miller)

Perhaps one of Daniel Day Lewis’ lesser known films, but by no means deserving of less respect. Day Lewis tends to give way above one hundred percent with his acting, that’s just his nature, and in The Ballad of Jack and Rose he is once again compassionately good. As his Camilla Belle, a thoroughly compelling performance by the youngster, playing the daughter with a dilemma of affection all the while her father heads towards the final impact of a heart condition. Rebecca Miller pulls you in with an emotive and free-wheeling tone in her direction, telling a simple story of complex feelings and forces of human nature. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

In My Skin (Marina de Van)

The French strain of body horror, the ‘New French Extremity’, distilled and deployed to better effect than any of those other, male gore-hounds could ever aspire to achieve. Marina de Van wrote, directed and starred in In My Skin, an intense and intimate study of subtle societal oppression borne out in the mind, transferred to the corpus. Violence (depicted with compassionate restraint, that it might unsettle rather than gross out – an objective most undeniably fulfilled) is a symptom here, not a cause. It is the twisted expression of a twisted psyche, turned upon itself by a twisted society, most potently portrayed in a restaurant-set scene that’s indescribably claustrophobia-inducing. It’s a pure, true piece of body horror, and yet In My Skin is only a horror film in what it instils in the viewer, despite its numerous scenes of dread (de Van’s touch for evoking particular moods here is one she’s otherwise never reclaimed) and self-mutilation. It’s a rigorously, disarmingly focused character drama about one character, an exploration of the self’s relationship toward itself. It’s no wonder that the same person who wrote and directed it is also the person who stars in it. – – – Paddy Mulholland @screenonscreen

Infinitely Polar Bear (Maya Forbes)

People were surprised when Mark Ruffalo was nominated at the Golden Globes for his endearing turn in Maya Forbes’ family / mental health drama Infinitely Polar Bear. I say drama, the film definitely has it’s comic moments, but given the subject matter this is no way an out and out comedy. Forbes wrestles with fatherhood, bipolar disorder, childhood with an affection without ignoring the harsh realities of an extremely fragile but loving family environment. Ruffalo is simply brilliant though, and somehow AMPAS failed to see it, kudos too though goes to the girls playing his daughters, Imogene Wolodarsky (the director’s own 12-year-old daughter) and Ashley Aufderheide, who pack a hefty punch in the acting stakes also. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

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Sleeping Beauty (Julia Leigh)

In competition at the Cannes Film Festival, novelist Julia Leigh’s debut feature is gazingly bleak and fairly static in its technical prowess. The pacing and narrative development is more stealthy than droll, but you can see why audiences would be put to sleep by this lethargically arty effort – so to speak. Even without a swing it definitely doesn’t miss though. The story revolves around high-end prostitution where penetration is forbidden. Clearly not exclusively based on the classic tale, Sleeping Beauty still does have a layer of fairy-tale in its wispy portrayal of more defined adult issues. Emily Browning as Lucy, who spends chunks of the picture in flimsy underwear or completely nude, makes an inspired, brave choice in her career, and given the sullen, leisurely execution of her appearance here it is actually something to be admired in the end. – – – Robin Write @WriteoutofLA

Reacquaint yourselves with Part One here and Part Two here of the list.

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